Futureheads and ‘Rant’

In 2012 I was lucky enough to be involved in helping with the folk song elements of the excellent Rant album produced by well-known Sunderland ‘indie’ band The Futureheads 


With an album inspired by both contemporary pop (The Black Eyed Peas, Kelis) and the likes of Sunderland folk club veteran Keith Gregson, The Futureheads have already discussed how ‘Rant’ is going to be a gamble, but Ross Millard hopes that fans will be open to the changes:

“A lot of them might not accept songs like ‘The Old Dun Cow’ and ‘The Keeper’, and dismiss them as old-time and medieval. But I’d like them to hear it with different ears and appreciate that we’re doing a modernist version.”

With renditions like this of songs such as ‘The Old Dun Cow’, it’s hard to imagine anyone not enjoying or appreciating the band’s revival of this virtually forgotten genre.


With an album inspired by both contemporary pop (The Black Eyed Peas, Kelis) and the likes of Sunderland folk club veteran Keith Gregson, The Futureheads have already discussed how ‘Rant’ is going to be a gamble, but Ross Millard hopes that fans will be open to the changes:


The Futureheads have made a record with no instruments at all. it is called ‘rant’, and it is strictly a cappella. a cappella, which is Italian for ‘in the manner of the chapel’, but has come to mean music made using nothing but the human voice. The crucial research materials were a selection of Alan Lomax, Smithsonian institute archive recordings (sea shanties a particular favourite) picked up while touring America, and more locally sourced inspirations brought to them by a Sunderland folk club veteran called Keith Gregson.


It’s the traditional songs that stand out though, as their textures and tonalities lend themselves to The Futureheads’ elaborate vocal arrangements far more than any four chord power-punk riff ever could. The richly woven, dialect-heavy ‘Sumer Is Icumen In’, for example, is like being transported to a mining village in nineteenth century County Durham, while ‘The Old Dun Cow’ is hilarious, not because it’s a daft gimmick, but because it’s fantastically fun song about getting drunk in a pub that’s on fire -is a timely reminder of what it was that set The Futureheads apart from their peers back in 2004 – they are true innovators, completely distinctive, occasionally mad, but still pretty damn marvellous


That Messrs Hyde, Millard and their cohorts have also pulled on some of that northern heritage for takes on folk songs like ‘Sumer Is Icumen In’ and ‘The Old Dun Cow’ is no surprise, bringing some history into their modern experiment. More straightforward – and less showy – than the recent material, these traditional numbers have a strength hewn from simple age.


The traditional folk songs on Rant truly make this an album that will bring a great deal of joy to the listener. How anyone could not smile when listening to ‘Beeswing’ ‘Summer Is Icumen’ ‘The Old Dun Cow’ and ‘The Keeper’ is a mystery to me.’Rant’ is an album that has pushed the boundaries of The Futureheads and has been a bold and ambitious project. Thankfully this is a band who are prepared to push those boundaries and in so doing have delivered an album they can be incredibly proud of.

8/10 Steve Taylor

The Sunday Times reference is particularly interesting if you can find it. In a recent BBC 6 Music Poll The Futureheads ‘Hounds Of Love’ was voted into the top 100 tracks of the decade 2003-20013 and ended in 52nd position defeating some very well-known artists and tracks.